March 9, 2021

«Il trovatore» on fire

Revenge. Loves and hatred of clans. Death at the stake. Pure fire. Verdi could not produce any opera with these wicks. Quite the contrary, because "Il trovatore" is pure nerve, a dramatic exercise of the first order in which the love triangle is not missing and in which the composer was fixed almost 20 years after he triumphed with the drama of the same name of the Spanish Antonio García Gutiérrez, written in 1836. Llamas that there is no way to dodge and from which it is difficult to flee: «The characters do not stop talking about fire, of fires, of pyres in which they burn women accused of witchcraft, of flames thrown at newborn children … A panorama. No, there is no way to dodge the fire in "Il trovatore", if we want to explain the story ». Who points out this key fact is Joan Matabosch, artistic director of the Teatro Real and, let's say, master the subject. He knows it and explains it.

«Il trovatore» was born after «Rigoletto» and preceded «La traviata», a very popular opera in whose composition the maestro from Busetto was already immersed before the premiere. The day of January 19, 1851 in the Roman Theater Apollo became a success in every rule and Verdi was crowned literally with a wreath of bay leaves from which hung red ribbons. At the end of the third performance, the public accompanied him to his hotel with torches and some of his most popular melodies were played under his balcony until the wee hours of the morning. The musician, who never stayed in the city beyond the third function, had the deference to prolong one more day his stay as thanks. And the coliseum corresponded the gesture with a beautiful decoration full of white flowers.

That it is a vocally very difficult opera is obvious. In the libretto commissioned by the teacher Cammarano (and that he could not conclude because he died before) sought the so-called "continuous drama" in which the cavatinas, duets, trios and choirs were swept away, and that "the work was composed of a single number ». Verdi did not get his collaborator to comply with his wishes and despite not liking the Italian he did not want to change a comma to the death of Cammarano, "whose memory I want to respect more than anything else," he wrote to a friend.

A demanding work

But what is the reason why Toscanini said that "the best singers in the world are needed to interpret it"? Is the Verdian work more difficult? "It is difficult to say because Verdi has many operas with roles of impressive vocal difficulty. Without a doubt, this is one of them. At the time, "Il trovatore" implied an in-depth revision of Verdian writing for the human voice, so that on the basis of the ancient bel canto technique the song was required to integrate the dramatic effects demanded by Verdi's phrasing. "Il tro-vatore" supposes, for example, the birth of the soprano "lirico-spinto", which demands a lyrical voice but with a tessitura of a particularly ambitious extension. The characters of Elena ("I vespri siciliani"), Amelia ("Un ballo in maschera") and Leonora ("La forza del destino"),

-Continues Matabosch-, will be the successors of this renewed concept of Verdian art, which will soon be extended to the strings of tenor and baritone. In fact, Belcantism seizes three of the central characters, such as Leonora, Manrico and the Count of Luna, who contrast strongly with the fourth, Azucena, before whom Verdi invents a new model, which has nothing to do with the previous bel canto vocality. It has been said that Azucena is, more than a character, a wandering paradigm of the obsession of revenge. And for this reason it has a treatment so different from that of the other characters, "explains Matabosch. To give voice and body to the main roles will be the tenor Franceso Meli, as Manrico, Maria Agresta, as Leonora, the mezzo Ekaterina Semenchuk, who will be Azucena, and the baritone Ludovic Tézier, in the skin of Count Luna. They lead the quartet protagonist in the world premiere and broadcast. Piero Pretti, Hibla Gerzmava, Marie-Nicole Lemieux and Artur Rucinski will alternate in the second cast, while in the third will be Piero Pretti, Lianna Haroutounian, Marina Prudenskaya and Dimitri Platanias. They will be joined by Roberto Tagliavini, Cassandre Berthon and Fabián Lara and Moisés Marín. One difficulty that the artistic director points out "lies in the legendary interpretative references of the past. Some go to the opera to compare the singers with the greats of the past and, of course, in "Il trovatore" there are certainly unforgettable ones. Before an idolized legend it is impossible to measure yourself. You can only lower your head and pay homage. It is not easy to put yourself in the shoes of a singer who has to deal with "Il trovatore" in a theater with a tradition. Then it turns out that those of us who have been in this business for a few years have seen how what we have finally placed on the pedestal at the time was much discussed, because then there were other iconic references, "comments who knows about this very much.

Romantic hero

And Manrico? Can you take the role to a tenor as much to the top as to face the stage? "He embodies the very essence of the tragic romantic hero, forced to play the game of life with some cards marked by an adverse fate: a social outcast who thinks he is the son of a gypsy; he is a rebel politically engaged with the Urgell, the dynasty defeated by the Trastámara; he is a sensitive soul dedicated, as a troubadour, to compose the poems that the minstrels will sing, a profession covered in the era of an aura of marginality; rejects any sense of authority; and above is in love with a lady of the court at first completely inaccessible, but soon discover that it corresponds to defy social norms, indifferent to the threat that his lover has a source so despicable to others. In the figure of Manrico – adds Matabosch »- converge the two obsessions that frame the action: the passionate love and the passion for revenge. It is certainly a role full of contradictions, and at the same time of an absolute coherence in its incarnation of the most genuine of romanticism in what is opposed to the archetype of classicism, which was that of the powerful faced with the responsibility of his duty ».

An opera weapons take. A bonfire that never stops burning and an aria that has put more than one tenor in a brete, "Di quella pira", with an over-sized do that is commonly called the breast. Matabosch tries to play down this legend of an aria that he does not believe is the cornerstone of the drama. And one more piece of information advances: "Where a real tenor is discovered is in the cantabile" A sí ben mio ", a few minutes before. There you have to sing, phrase, administer the "fiato", breathe and sit down. The rest is fine to finish the scene brilliantly, but the tenors who reserve themselves shamelessly to just emit insolent highs in the cabaletta, for my part can stay at home. It is easy to think that the Manners who alternate on paper will almost be forced to give a note that the composer did not write on the score. Are they going to give the top grade? «Of course, I do not think that any Manrico dares to sing the paper without giving the" Do ". And that is a note that is not written by Verdi and that is unnecessary, but has become part of the "circus" associated with this opera. And since the circus seems great to me when it's good, welcome is the "Do". As long as it does not compromise the rest ».

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